Sandbox Rules

Share your toys

Play Fair

Don’t hit people

Put things back where you found them

Don’t whisper about other people in the sandbox or after you leave

Clean up your own mess

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody

Don’t tell lies

Don’t take things that aren’t yours

When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together

Even when we attempt to behave kindly towards our colleagues, we can be thwarted by conniving parents, and sometimes by older students. Years ago, I received a call from a parent inquiring about lessons for her teenage daughter. The mother told me they had recently moved to our area and she had heard good things about my teaching. I scheduled an interview, talked with mom and daughter, heard the girl play, reviewed materials, and placed her in an appropriate level. They seemed like nice honest people but, real trouble began when we got to the actual signing up part.

The mom told me that they couldn’t start for several months because they were still financially obligated to another teacher (Wait. What? I thought you just moved here.) and she didn’t want her to know they were leaving. I know that I could have taken a non-refundable deposit and put her on my waiting list right then but something didn’t seem right. (Also, I was worried that the Mom was trying to get out of paying the other teacher which wasn’t OK in my book. Would she turn around and do that to me too?)

I explained about my waiting list and how the deposit worked and suggested she call me after they had discussed it at home. The mom flew off the handle. She wanted to get scheduled then and there, ahead of the other families who had been waiting for a slot. The poor girl was completely embarrassed and so was I.

Well, she never called and avoided me at our local MTA events from then on. Later, I found out that the girl had already changed teachers twice in less than a year and I would have been the third. I had dodged a bullet.

Check out the Codes of Ethics of any professional organization and you’ll find that they all really boil down to the Sandbox Rules. They address respect for students and colleagues, positive and clear communication, student privacy, enabling positive transitions, continued growth, and responsibility to the community at large. Here is the link to the MTNA Code of Ethics.

IMHO, one area which is lacking in most Codes of Behavior concerns the internet. Yes, privacy of students and teachers and respect for colleagues have statements, but it is astounding how many people don’t think their behavior on the internet counts—that it is somehow outside the realm of manners or even that there is a different and acceptable set of norms there.

We also need to guide students to use internet resources appropriately. We also need to be sure that the student portions of our own sites are not viewable by the public at large, that we don’t talk about our students directly on social networking sites, and that pictures are not identified in such a way as to create an unsafe situation for our students. We need to read and understand the privacy policies of the online learning sites we allow our students to use. These sites are convenient and allow us to track assignments and give students comments between lessons. But do we always take the time to find out how much information is being kept and for what reason?

Students are very internet savvy.  The husband of one of my colleagues walked into her computer room and found a teenage boy had bypassed multiple firewalls and was in the process of viewing a very inappropriate chat room indeed. Studio computer or tablet work should be supervised or in public view, and steps should be taken to prevent students from accessing inappropriate content. There are monitoring plugins and apps available for desktops and tablets which lock students out of everything but what you want them to access.


This revised post was first published in August 2008.

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